Wednesday 14 September 2011


After an incredibly constructive debate yesterday in the House Of Lords the government appear to be concerned about how many Lords had significant concerns about the Welfare Reform Bill, even those Lords who in principle supported the bill had major questions they wanted answers to.

For a bill of this size and importance, convention dictates that the next stage of the bill should be kept in the main chamber of the House of Lords for debate. It's particularly important the bill be continued to be debated in the main chamber as disability access to the smaller committee rooms is very limited and people will not be able to access the committee rooms to exercise their democratic right to observe the passge of the bill from the public chamber.

At 3.30pm today the govermnent are tabling a motion to move the grand committee stage of the bill into one of the smaller committee rooms. Presumably the government are hoping that by moving a bill into the committee rooms it will be harder to scrutinise - there won't be enough space in any of the committee rooms to allow for all the Lords to participate, let alone for us to scrutinise online or attend in person.

This is an outrage - the government are clearly concerned by the level of queries and opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill highlighted by yesterday's debate and wish to quietly sideline it to a committee room where they hope it will pass with less opposition. Tabling the motion for the afternoon following PMQ's is also an underhand trick as it means it will be harder for us to object through the main stream media.

This is our call to arms. This bill affects us, our families and every aspect of our lives, as well as the lives of those currently paying into the system in anticipation of protection should they require it. If we can make enough noise in the next few hours the government will be forced to keep the passage of the bill in the main chamber of the house of lords where it can be effectively and appropriately scrutinised by all.

What you can do to help is this;

Please post copies of this blog onto your facebook, your twitter, stumbleupon, wikio etc. Please email it to everyone you know, please talk about this on your own blogs. Email or phone your MP to register your objections, email or phone the house of lords to explain your concerns, email or phone the media, local or national and explain that whether or not people are in favour of this bill, that it is a fundamental democratic right to have it debated in the main chamber of the house of lords where there is space for all who wish to attend and observe. Highlight the injustice and hypocrisy of the governments behaviour in trying to sideline this important bill into a room too small for all the Lords to attend and certainly too small to allow those in wheelchairs, or with guide dogs, the very people most affected by this bill to be able to observe from the public gallery.

If we make enough noise before 3.30pm today the government will have to drop this underhand tactic and the Bill will continue to be debated in the main chamber of the House of Lords where everyone who wishes to can attend and observe.

UPDATE 13.30
The email addresses to contact are; – this is the chief whip to whom you should send the email and cc it to the others . – opposition chief whip


Anonymous said...

I'm confused. I thought the idea was that the next stage will be heard at Grand Committee (which normally wouldn't be heard in the main chamber) rather than as a Committee of the whole House (which would!).

The benefits of having it go to Grand Committee could be that this Bill gets the thorough going over that it so clearly needs!

According to the Parliament website - "Most Bills which are not committed to a Committee of the Whole House in the Lords are instead sent to a Grand Committee. The proceedings are identical to those in a Committee of the Whole House except that voting is not allowed. This means that all decisions must be made unanimously. Any Member of the House of Lords may attend a Grand Committee."

Surely having this go to Grand Committee, where the Lords would have to work out consensus view, and consider every element of the Bill in fine detail, is preferable to having it heard in the whole House Committee, where the Government could force a whipped vote and get this through as it is?

Obviously, it's a disgrace that other rooms aren't wheelchair accessible, but the procedural point is one we need to be aware of - at least from a tactical standpoint, anyway?

Sam Barnett-Cormack said...

A quick bit of reading suggests that the distinction between the Committee of the Whole House and a Grand Committee is procedural only, and doesn't have any effect on where it is (or vice-versa). I'm not sure, however, whether this should be going to Grand Committee or Committee of the Whole House, as it's not clear what they would be voting on. Grand Committee is supposed to apply when the subject of voting will be non-controversial, and that doesn't sound like it's the case whether any vote would be on amendments or on accepting sections as-is, so I'm really not sure what's going on there.

The important question here is the location. We need to stop the government shutting this away, especially given there are several mobility-impaired peers interested.

Robin said...

Faxed to Lord West of Spithead

"Dear Lord West,

I am faxing you as this matter is rather time sensitive. I do hope this reaches you in time to be relevant.

I’m sure you’re aware the Welfare Reform Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords. The debate yesterday was incredibly interesting to me, as someone who is both disabled, and works for an organisation that works with disabled people.

I was heartened by the number of Lords that picked up on the many failings of the Bill, and wished to clarify many points, as it is currently vague on too many factors. I was also glad to see so many Lords supportive of the needs of disabled people, and not wishing to see us further marginalised and discriminated against through financial hardship.

Today I’ve heard that it is proposed to debate the Bill in side-chambers, rather than the main chamber, which, for such a matter of importance, I find ridiculous. This will prevent many Lords from taking part in the debate, and, as many side-chambers are inaccessible to wheelchair users, will prevent proper public access (and prevent access from Lords with impaired mobility.)

It is remarkable that the very people most affected by this Bill are to be prevented from viewing the debate from the Public Gallery!

Please will you support the continuation of the debate of this Bill in the main chamber, and not allow disabled people’s rights to be sidelined in such a disgusting manner?

Yours sincerely..."

Jack Sparrow said...

I have repeatedly tried to post this on my stumbleupon but to no avail! Why?

Anonymous said...

Ive just emailed to those 3 links...hope its not too late!

By the way can anyone tell me if the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund is included within the text of the welfare reform bill and is up for debate at this time?

Patrick Torsney said...

Well, sometimes you've got to jump before thinking. I've emailed them all and copied it to every MP I know. Nothing ground shaking but the more the better I would have thought:

Dear Sirs

It has come to my attention that the Government intends to try table an amendment at 3.30pm today, after PMQs, to move the debate of the Welfare Reform Bill from the Lords Main Chamber to a much smaller room that would not allow neither the full compliment of interested Lords to attend, nor the public who have an interest in the Bill most especially, disabled people with wheelchairs, guide dogs and such.

55 Lords were tabled to speak at the Bill reading yesterday. To even suggest that a Bill that provokes this level of concern should be marginalised out of the main chamber to a Committee Room is, quite simply, outrageous.

This is not the way I would expect any Government to behave and I am profoundly disturbed that the Government could have even suggested what appears to be nothing more than a ploy to avoid proper scrutiny of the Bill.

Disabled74 said...

I have emailed, tweeted on both my accounts and put it on Facebook. I hope it's not too late.

Patrick Torsney said...

Here's some info about a Grand Committee:

Anonymous said...

I saw this at 3 o'clock, so haven't had enough time to do anything useful, but I emailed Baroness Anelay anyway - copy to Lord Freud and to my MP (not that she can do anything, but it does no harm to keep them aware that you are watching Parliamentary affairs.)

Anyway I put together a VERY hasty email, so I hope I haven;t made too many bloopers in etiquette or matters of fact:

Your Ladyship

I have just been informed that the government is proposing to move the debate in the House of Lords on the Welfare Reform out of the main chamber and into a committee room.

While there may be good reasons for this, the suspicion is bound to arise that this is a measure designed to reduce the level of debate and to make it less accessible to the public - especially those in wheelchairs.

Am I am therefore requesting that the government withdraw the motion to move the debate further from public scrutiny.

The Lords is supposed to be a revising chamber not an endorsing one. If it also supposed to be more democratically answerable that it was in its former hereditary days, then keeping important business in the public eye is part of its duty. Hiding a grand committee stage behind the doors of a minor committee room does not fit that project, and is also a disgrace to the good name of Lords.

It does no credit to the government - except in so far a quelling scrutiny and debate can be seen as slick political practice.

This really won't do, you know.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this info and thanks to Patrick for the example letter which I've just managed to mail out to all the above suggestions.

Anonymous said...

blimey, 10 minutes before kick off, but managed to send 3 emails to the crooks, I mean peeps in charge of the circus.
Hope for everything, Expect nothing.

Anonymous said...

Surely if they are debating this in a smaller inaccessibe room, where their opponents can not readily protest, than this is discrimination against disabled and also againt some members of the House of Lords who may not be able to enter as they have difficulty walking due old age . As we have a law in this land that is supposed to protect against discrimination, what the government are doing is illegal and as such action should be taken to rectify this!

Sam Barnett-Cormack said...

I believe that parliament, as well as crown services like prisons, are actually exempt from such discrimination legislation. You can make a moral claim, but not a legal one.

Anonymous said...

We need to email the Crossbenchers at the House of Lords their contacy details can be found at the following link

Anonymous said...

While there may be good reasons for this, the suspicion is bound to arise that this is a measure designed to reduce the level of debate and to make it less accessible to the public - especially those in wheelchairs.forklift-training/


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